Friday, November 4, 2011

Former “Most Wanted” Health Care Fraud Fugitives Sentenced to 14 Years in Prison for $9.1 Million Detroit Medicare Fraud Scheme


WASHINGTON – Two sisters who owned a fraudulent Detroit-area medical clinic and who are former “Most Wanted” health care fraud fugitives were each sentenced in Miami today to 14 years in prison for their leading roles in a $9.1 million Medicare fraud scheme, announced the Department of Justice, the FBI and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

Caridad Guilarte, 54, and Clara Guilarte, 57, were sentenced by U.S. District Judge Cecilia M. Altonaga in the Southern District of Florida. The Guilartes were also sentenced to three years of supervised release and were ordered to pay approximately $6 million in restitution, jointly with co-defendants.

The Guilartes pleaded guilty on Aug. 24, 2011, to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. The sisters were charged in an indictment unsealed in June 2009 in the Eastern District of Michigan. After fleeing the United States to Panama and then Venezuela to avoid arrest, they were placed on the HHS-Office of Inspector General (HHS-OIG) Most Wanted Fugitives list. They were arrested on March 13, 2011, by law enforcement authorities in Colombia and were returned to the United States on March 14, 2011. The Guilartes consented to have their cases transferred to the Southern District of Florida for plea and sentencing. As part of her plea, Caridad Guilarte agreed to forfeit approximately $465,000, which was seized by the FBI as part of its investigation.

According to court documents, the Guilartes opened Dearborn Medical Rehabilitation Center (DMRC) in November 2005 solely for the purpose of defrauding Medicare. DMRC purported to be an infusion clinic that administered infusions of exotic and expensive medications to patients suffering serious illnesses, such as HIV and Hepatitis-C. Between November 2005 and March 2007, DMRC submitted more than $9 million in claims to Medicare for infusion treatments and related services.

The Guilartes admitted that they purchased only a small fraction of the medications billed to Medicare. The Medicare beneficiaries who visited DMRC did not need infusion treatments, but instead came to DMRC because they were bribed to do so with the payment of cash kickbacks. The Guilartes recruited a number of individuals to assist them in defrauding Medicare, including beneficiary recruiters, who paid cash kickbacks, and a doctor, to give the clinic an appearance of legitimacy.

Medicare paid in excess of $6 million to DMRC. The Guilartes laundered the proceeds of the fraud through various co-conspirators and a series of shell corporations, which had no legitimate business function. More than 10 individuals have pleaded guilty to health care fraud and/or money laundering in connection with the DMRC scheme.

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